On December 18, 2021, the Al-Nejashi mosque was bombed and looted by Eritrean troops. It had just been renovated with the help of Turkey and was about to be inaugurated when the attack took place. It is a sacred place for Ethiopian Muslims. They claim it is the first mosque ever built in Africa and that it contains the tombs of followers of Mohammed.
According to Reuters, soldiers entered IDP camps in Shire, western Tigray. They reportedly beat and robbed civilians before taking several hundred of them away. The conflict, which has been going on since November, has left thousands dead. But also considerable damage. In Negash, the Al Nejashi mosque, one of the most important Muslim sites in Africa, was bombed and looted.
An elder prays beside one of the mosque’s tombs. Above his head, the dome is partially ripped open, the stigma of a shell hit six months ago. The imam, Sheikh Adam Mohammed, tells us.
“The day before there was fighting in the city and we hid in the basement. Then the building was bombed. Three shells hit the mosque. Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers then arrived. They killed three people before looting everything. We had a new space that was going to be inaugurated. They stole the kitchen utensils, the fridges, the ovens, everything they could. Everything was new. We were helpless. You know well what they would have done to us if we tried to stop them. “
Negash is considered the oldest Muslim site in Africa. The mosque dates back to the seventh century. It is said that several fellow travelers of the Prophet Mohammed are buried there after fleeing persecution. Sheikh Zeinu Ismael has been praying there for 40 years.
“We cried a lot when we saw the mosque in this state. It is a sacred building and it is as if the whole Muslim world has been affected. It’s not for me to forgive or not. If people are good, they will receive good things in return. Those who act badly, God will judge them. Only their actions will save those who did this.”
Six months later, the mosque has not been renovated. While the conflict is getting bogged down, its leaders believe that it is necessary to wait for peace before thinking of rebuilding.